Minutes before kick-off at tonight's match between Austria Vienna and Zenit St. Petersburg in the Austrian capital, six Greenpeace activists in cheerleaders outfits ran onto the pitch alongside the players, and revealed banners saying: "Gazprom do not foul the Arctic".
Shortly after this Greenpeace climbers abseiled from the roof of Naples' San Paolo stadium during half-time in the home team’s game against Arsenal, unfurling a vertical banner right above the VIP stand with "Giustizia per Cristian" (Justice for Cristian, in Italian) written across it. At the same time, a second team of climbers unfolded a banner from the top of an large tower just outside the stadium’s entrance saying: "Gazprom quit the Arctic".
Speaking from St Petersburg, Cristian D’Alessandro, one of the 28 Greenpeace activists arrested along with two freelance journalists during a peaceful protest at Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil rig in September, commented: "We just can't let oil companies drill in the fragile Arctic. This is why we were there with the Arctic Sunrise, to alert the world to a huge environmental disaster in the making, and for this reason we will continue to ask oil companies to drop their foolish plans."
After spending two months behind bars without trial, the Arctic 30 have been released on bail but are still charged with hooliganism and are not allowed to leave Russia, facing the prospect of spending Christmas away from home. An amnesty to be voted by the Russian parliament tomorrow has raised hopes the Arctic 30 would benefit from it, but this is now looking unlikely unless a small amendment is made to the current text at the last minute.
Today's actions rounded off a week of Greenpeace protests against Gazprom's Arctic drilling, which started on Monday with activists lowering a remote-controlled banner behind Real Madrid's players and coach at a crowded pre-match press conference. Earlier today during Galatasaray's game against Juventus football fans in Istanbul helped Greenpeace unfold a giant 200-square-metre Greenpeace banner with 'Kick Gazprom out of the Arctic' written across it.
Gazprom is one of UEFA's six sponsoring partners for the high-profile football tournament, the most watched annual sporting event in the world, with a global audience of 4.2 billion people.
"Gazprom is using football's mass appeal and glamour to try to clean up its image, while behind the scenes it's threatening one of the most fragile environments on earth with irreparable devastation," said Ben Ayliffe, head of the Greenpeace Arctic campaign. "It's not a matter of whether an oil spill disaster will happen, but when. As the imprisonment of the Arctic 30 shows, this company will stop at nothing to silence those who shine a light on its risky operations in the frozen north."
The series of protest actions is part of an international Greenpeace campaign, backed by 4.5 million people worldwide, to ban oil drillers from the Arctic and have the area around the North Pole declared a global sanctuary.
Pictures of today's actions are available here, with the latest to follow shortly:
Gazprom is racing to become the world's first oil company to commercially exploit oil reserves in the ice-covered waters of the Arctic – an extremely dangerous environment marked by violent storms, long period of total darkness, and winter temperatures as low as minus 50C. The Russian oil giant has appalling safety and environmental records, including a rig that capsized killing 53 people and hundreds of devastating oil spills on land. The Prirazlomnaya platform, where Gazprom is intending to start Arctic oil production, was built from pieces of decommissioned North Sea rigs, and the company has so far failed to publish a full oil spill response plan.
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